Coronavirus (COVID-19) Precautions

For the latest information from Western Michigan University, visit the WMU news web page about the evolving situation.

If you have traveled to an area affected by COVID-19 and believe you have respiratory symptoms or fever, or if you had contact with a person who is a confirmed COVID-19 case, please call (269) 387-3287 before coming to the health center. We will discuss your symptoms and need for screening.

If you have traveled to these areas and are not experiencing symptoms there is no need to visit the health center. Call if symptoms develop.

To date, there have been no suspected or confirmed cases of coronavirus at WMU. For campus safety and health, we are enacting prevention protocols at the health center to protect students, faculty and staff from infectious disease, including coronavirus.

Anyone with a fever, cough or respiratory symptoms will be asked to wear a mask when they arrive at the health center. All patients visiting will be asked when they register if they have been to China, Iran, Italy, Japan or South Korea in the past month, or if they have had contact with anyone with confirmed coronavirus.

As this situation evolves, the most up-to-date source of information about coronavirus is the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Our understanding of how the virus that causes COVID-19 spreads is largely based on what is known about similar coronaviruses. Here are some important facts to know (updated March 6, 2020).

The CDC has posted travel notices related to COVID-19. We summarize the current travel notices here.

Precautions at the health center

The health center is taking precautions to reduce the risk to the campus community:

  • Asking patients whether they have been to any of the affected areas.
  • Asking patients with upper respiratory symptoms such as coughing or sneezing to wear masks.
  • Working with county officials to coordinate a response if a case of COVID-19 is identified in the area.
  • Reviewing infectious disease protocols in place.
  • Increasing the frequency of cleaning in high-traffic areas.
  • Continuing to administer flu shots to patients wishing to improve their overall resistance to disease.
  • Offering a limited supply of reusable thermometers for students or employees wishing to monitor signs of fever. These are available at the cashier station.
  • Working with WMU Facilities Management to post prevention posters across campus.

Person-to-person spread

The virus is thought to spread mainly from person-to-person:

  • Between people who are in close contact with one another (Close contact is defined as—being within approximately 6 feet of a person with COVID-19 for a prolonged period of time—10 minutes or more).
  • Through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneeze. These droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby or possibly be inhaled into the lungs.

Spread from contact with infected surfaces or objects

It may be possible that a person can get COVID-19 by touching a surface or object that has the virus on it and then touching their own mouth, nose, or possibly their eyes, but this is not thought to be the main way the virus spreads.

Can someone spread the virus without being sick?

People are thought to be most contagious when they are most symptomatic (the sickest). Some spread might be possible before people show symptoms.

How easily does the virus spread?

How easily a virus spreads from person-to-person can vary. Some viruses are highly contagious (spread easily), like measles, while other viruses do not spread as easily.

The virus that causes COVID-19 seems to be spreading easily and sustainably in the community (“community spread”) in some affected geographic areas. Community spread means people have been infected with the virus in an area, including some who are not sure how or where they became infected.

Symptoms

Reported illnesses have ranged from mild symptoms to severe illness and death for confirmed COVID-19 cases. Symptoms may appear 2 to 14 days after exposure, based on what has been seen previously as the incubation period of MERS-CoV viruses:

  • Fever
  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath

Prevention and Treatment

There is currently no vaccine to prevent COVID-19. The best way to prevent illness is to avoid being exposed to the virus. However, as a reminder, the CDC always recommends everyday preventive actions to help prevent the spread of respiratory diseases, including:

  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
  • Stay home when you are sick.
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces using a regular household cleaning spray or wipe.
  • Follow CDC recommendations for using a facemask.
    • CDC does not recommend that people who are well wear a facemask to protect themselves from respiratory diseases, including COVID-19.
    • Facemasks should be used by people who show symptoms of COVID-19 to help prevent the spread of the disease to others. The use of facemasks is also crucial for health workers and people who are taking care of someone in close settings (at home or in a health care facility).
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after going to the bathroom; before eating; and after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing.
    • If soap and water are not readily available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol. Always wash hands with soap and water if hands are visibly dirty.

What to do if you develop symptoms

Call ahead to a healthcare professional—do not visit in person—if:

  • you develop a fever and symptoms of respiratory illness, such as cough or difficulty breathing, and
  • have been in close contact with a person known to have COVID-19 or
  • if you live in or have recently traveled to an area with ongoing spread.

Tell your healthcare professional about your recent travel or contact. Your healthcare professional will work with your state’s public health department and CDC to determine if you need to be tested for COVID-19.